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New Student Information

3. New Student Information

3.1 ECE Advisement Orientation Session

An ECE advisement orientation session is held for incoming graduate students one week prior to the first week of classes for the fall semester. All new graduate students are expected to attend this session because pertinent information will be disseminated. In addition, there will be a check-in for verification of attendance.

3.2 Payroll Forms

All newly funded graduate students (assistantships and fellowships) must report to the ECE Payroll Office in 302 Whittemore Hall to complete the I-9 and Payroll Forms by the first day of employment (which is the start date listed on the Assistantship Agreement Form) and no later than the first day of classes. Failure to report to the ECE Payroll Office will result in termination of the assistantship appointment.

3.3 The Interim Faculty Advisor

Interim Faculty Advisor for a Master's Student

Entering M.S. and M.Eng. students not having a faculty advisor upon arrival will be assigned an interim faculty advisor in their desired area of concentration. Interim faculty advisors can assist new students in a number of important ways including:

  • giving new students helpful information in selecting courses for the first one or two semesters of coursework,
  • assisting students in becoming familiar with research opportunities, and
  • helping students to select permanent faculty advisors.

It should be noted that interim faculty advisors are only committed to assist students on a temporary basis. It is each student's responsibility to find a permanent advisor for their thesis or project and report.

Interim Faculty Advisor for a Ph.D. Student

An incoming Ph.D. student without a permanent faculty advisor will be assigned an interim faculty advisor by the chair of the area committee. The assigned interim faculty advisor will essentially be in the student's desired field of specialization. The responsibilities of an interim faculty advisor are:

  • familiarizing the student with the research activities in the interest area,
  • endorsing a course plan for the first academic semester,
  • ensuring that the student's work satisfies the academic standards for the Ph.D. degree,
  • assisting the student in finding a permanent faculty advisor in accordance with the rules of the Graduate School, and
  • guiding the student toward the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination requirements (see Section 5.8 for more details).

An interim faculty advisor is not authorized to develop a formal Ph.D. plan of study with the advisee unless he or she is also willing to serve as the student's faculty advisor.

3.4 Registration

The ECE Graduate Courses are accessible through the ECE Graduate Student website. Upon arrival, new students should select the courses to be taken for the first semester of enrollment in consultation with the interim faculty advisor or faculty advisor. New students are encouraged to register for at least three courses (nine credit course hours) per semester during their first academic year. Courses are to be added by the student using the university's registration system, Hokie Spa.

The Bursar's Office has an electronic billing system and notifications of expenses incurred are sent via e-mail. Students can also access their Bursar's Account through Hokie Spa.

Registration for courses in succeeding semesters is processed electronically on the Hokie Spa during the university course request period. Once enrolled in a course, the student may chose to drop it at any time before the university drop deadline. Exceptions to the drop deadline are only given in extenuating circumstances with approval of the ECE Graduate Committee.

The university requires graduate students that are funded on an assistantship or fellowship to enroll in 12 to 18 credit hours per semester. Assistantship and fellowship appointments will be withdrawn if enrollment falls below the minimum 12 credit hours set forth by the university.

Students may enroll in ECE 5904, Project and Report; ECE 5994, Thesis; or ECE 7994, Dissertation, to fulfill the requirement. Students must enroll in Project and Report/Thesis/Dissertation by the CRN # assigned to their interim faculty advisor or faculty advisor. Students are required to inform the faculty if enrolled in one of their CRN #s to determine the requirements needed to earn an EQ grade. These credit hours are not to be viewed as filler but rather a commitment to a certain research load as mutually agreed upon by the student and advisor.

Once an applicant registers, the application materials become part of the student's educational record. ECE faculty and staff are allowed to access graduate student's educational files for consideration of advising and research funding. Under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, a student has the right to waive this access. To do so please comply in writing to the ECE Graduate Counselor.

3.5 Imperative Course Work Information

Special Study and Independent Study Courses

Special Study courses (5984) involve a group of students and are used to study a current topic or to experiment with a new course. ECE 5984, if being used to fulfill one of the required areas in EE or CPE, count in the area the course was approved in (for example, if the Computer Area Committee approves the 5984, the course counts as a "5" or Computer Area course).

Independent Study courses (5974), which are offered on a Pass/Fail only option, involve only the professor and an individual student. The subject of an Independent Study must be a continuation (in greater depth) of a topic covered in a regular ECE course, allowing students to study topics of particular individual interest. An Independent Study course will not be approved if it appears to be only an extension of a student's research work for the degree. 5974 courses cannot be used to fulfill the area requirement in ECE. A maximum of 6 credits of Special and Independent Study may be listed on a master's plan of study. A maximum of 9 credits of Special and Independent Study may be listed on the Ph.D. plan of study (see Chapter 4 and Chapter 5 for more information).

The Independent Study Form must be submitted to the student's ECE Graduate Academic Advisor no later than Tuesday of the first week of class for the enrolled semester/session. The ECE Graduate Academic Advisor will obtain approval from the Assistant Department Head for Graduate Education and then enter the 3 credit hours onto the student's class schedule. Students cannot add ECE 5974, Independent Study, via the Hokie Spa add/drop system.

Graduate Seminar, ECE 5944

The ECE Seminar course, ECE 5944, is one-credit hour and is intended for new ECE on-campus and extended campus graduate students. Research and engineering activities in many areas of current interest to electrical and computer engineers are presented by invited lecturers. The seminar course is VTEL-based and offered at the Blacksburg campus, Northern Virginia Center, Alexendria Research Institute, Central campus (Dahlgren) and VT-MENA in Egypt.

For all first year graduate students (MS and PhD), attendance at all seminars is mandatory. Students failing to attend all seminars in a given semester shall receive an F on their transcript; this also has a direct effect on a student's overall GPA. If assigned duties or conflicts interfere with a regularly scheduled seminar, students must submit a written request in advance of a seminar for an excused seminar absence to the Graduate Seminar Coordinator. This course is taken on a Pass/Fail basis, and is listed on the plan of study, but does not count toward the degree. In addition, graduate students are also expected to attend seminars in their specialty area(s) within the department.

Auditing Courses

A student may enroll in a course with an audit option, provided the instructor of the course and/or student's graduate advisor approves. An audit course does not count toward full-time enrollment. However, students wishing to audit an ECE course must submit an ECE Audit Form by the third day of the first week of classes. If there is space in the course after the last day to add, students will be added to the class under the audit option. This is to allow room for students who need the course for their degree. Students who do not submit the ECE Audit Form but add a course as audit via a computer terminal will be dropped from the class. Note that laboratories cannot be taken under the audit option. Once a student audits a course, the course may not be repeated for credit. Also, the audit option cannot be changed to credit or vice versa after the last day to add. At the end of the course, the instructor will determine if an audit is "satisfactory" or "unsatisfactory" based on participation and other expectations set forth at the beginning of the course. Students earning an unsatisfactory audit (NG) in a course should notify the Instructor to request the Graduate School to remove the course from their class schedule. Therefore, the GPA is not affected.

3.6 Probation Policy

The Graduate School will automatically place a graduate student on probation if their GPA falls below the minimum 3.0. Normally, the probationary period is given for one semester. Failure to achieve a cumulative 3.0 GPA after completion of one semester may result in dismissal from Graduate School. The probation policy applies to all graduate students, regardless of status or campus location.

3.7 Readmission

For any two consecutive semesters in which a graduate student does not register, an Application for Readmission is required to attend any subsequent semester.

3.8 Miscellaneous Information

Computer Accounts and E-mail

Graduate students are encouraged to have their own personal computer. All campus buildings have wireless connection which provides internet access throughout the Virginia Tech campus.

All graduate students should obtain a university e-mail account (PID) through Hokie Spa as soon as possible. Many important departmental announcements are made via e-mail, such as seminar notices. E-mail should be checked daily in order to receive these announcements in a timely manner. E-mail may be read from computers in the university computer labs as well as several sites within the department. All departmental information is distributed by e-mail.

Once their Virginia Tech PID is set up, graduate students may create an account for access to the ECE Computer Workstation Lab. The workstations offer many computational tools for graduate students that may be used in their classes or research.

Study Desks

The ECE Department provides desks in Whittemore Hall, Durham Hall, Torgersen Hall, and other locations, for as many students as resources permit. GTAs may use, on a shared basis, desks in several rooms which are dedicated for that purpose. Alternatively, GTAs who have teaching responsibilities in various laboratories may use desks in those labs if desks are available. Except for the dedicated GTA desks, all other student study desks are reserved for GRA use and are under the control of laboratory, center, or research group directors. Any student seeking use of a desk should see their faculty advisor for further information. All desk assignments are considered to be temporary and are reviewed for continuation at least annually. All graduate student offices are to remain locked at all times. Food products (other than packaged snack-type items) are not to be left in any graduate student office. Usage of tobacco or alcohol products are not permitted anywhere in Virginia Tech buildings.

Locks and Keys

The research professor responsible for lab and office use must approve all keys and access codes for graduate students. Any lost or misplaced keys must be reported to the ECE Shop immediately. Based on the facts of the case, authorization of replacement of the key may be granted, but such replacement is not automatic.

Access Codes for buildings must be obtained from the faculty advisor or interim faculty advisor. The lock combinations are changed periodically and students must acquire new access codes when this occurs. Keys for access to the outside doors are not issued to students.

Students must return keys to the ECE Shop upon completion of degree, departure from the university, or departure from a given office. Failure to return keys to the ECE Shop can result in a hold on the student's account, therefore denying access to official transcript and diploma.